Randidly pulled Zauna and Salazar along behind him while hurrying back to Iellaya’s camp as the noise above them grew increasingly loud. Every few steps he cast a glance up over his shoulder toward the darkening sky, where Lady Iellaya and Commander Terith frantically tried to shield their personal camps from the reign of Nether meteorites that were spewed out of the portal.
Their images were so monstrously large and strong that the reverberations rippled out down and pressed down against Randidly with enough violence he had to grit his teeth. But it was only the prelude for the damage that was about to come.
An unending stream of Nether corroded the air, rapidly increasing the visual variance. Even though it was too distant for Randidly to feel, his Nether Sensation tingled ominously.
The previously present teamwork between the two camp leaders instantly vanished as their individual interests were threatened. Not that they particularly tried to deflect the Nether bombs toward each other’s bases, but they concerned themselves solely with eliminated the attacks that threatened them.
Certainly there is enough fucking Nether to go around…
The meteors of Nether were enormous even from a distance. The came out in dense obsidian clusters, seeming to completely blot out a small portion of the sky. Suddenly, both of the Commanders didn’t have the spare attention to help each other.
Perhaps even more disastrous to their defensive efforts were the four remaining Nether tentacles that harried them while they struggled to destroyed the descending Nether. One continually harassed Lady Iellaya while the other three focused their efforts on completely tying down Commander Terith.
Randidly was rather surprised to see that the three tentacles were far from a match for seemingly possessed Terith. He began methodically cutting back and forth with his impossibly huge golden ax, forcing his way through to strike at the vast bombs of Nether that were careening down toward his base.
But even though both narrowed their focus, neither had much time to spare. When most of the black meteors were hit, they weren’t simply destroyed. They seemed to be designed so that the largest portion exploded and spread an intimidating amount of smaller Nether meteors into the surrounding air. And although these were “smaller” they still appeared to Randidly’s senses to the size of sports stadiums.
One of those landing on the base would not be pretty.
These meteors, too, were soon broken into pieces as Lady Iellaya avoided the miserable tentacle that tried to slow her down in the sky. Yet after they were destroyed, suddenly there were two dozen lumps of Nether the size of two-story buildings that were dropping down toward the camp. Randidly licked his lips and continued to hurry forward.
Lady Iellaya’s black wings swept left and right, avoiding the tentacle that was aiming to hold her down while ripping like a scythe through the Nether. But even if she managed to catch most of the larger portions, smaller ones began to whistle ominously as they made it through her defenses. Before she could address these human-sized bombs of Nether heading toward her base, Iellaya’s attention was pulled inexorably upward by the unending stream of Nether that blasted out of the portal.
Looks like this isn’t a one and done sort of scenario.
“We need to hurry,” Randidly said again as he turned back to his subordinates. “I don’t think the bombardment will stop for a while. Not until someone comes to help close that portal.”
As the group resumed their flight, the rumbling voice of Terith shook the air. “Do you think you can stop me? ME?!?”
The group of three ignored the fights above and hurried back into their own camp. Very quickly, they made their way through the thin pathways between tents while a warning bell began to ring across the camp. As the trio was hurrying past, several confused individuals stepped out of their tents and peered uncertainly around, trying to understand what was going on.
Luckily, the descending bombardment of Nether was quite obvious once the muffling influence of the tent was removed.
Around them, Randidly could clearly feel that the more powerful individuals were coming together and weaving a barrier of images above the camp that would handle the worst of the damage. Yet as they did so, Randidly could only chuckle with grim humor.
Heh, guess it’s not so much of an advantage to have a body now is it? I hope you enjoy relying on your image to directly resist Nether like the rest of us who were torn from our natural bodies. Unless you went to take a hurtling blob of Nether directly to the chest…
With the screeching descent of the Nether above them reaching ominous levels of volume, the trio arrived back at their tent. Randidly gestured sharply for the other two to go within while he turned and looked up at the dim sky.
The Nether shooting down toward them was sporadic and small, but it still possessed quite a bit of power.
They must really be desperate after they lost all of the Nether Wells,
Randidly thought with a frown.
Or is this because of what the guard referred to earlier? Something that Commander Terith was able to steal? Which probably means that the ambush went well
Both Zauna and Salazar were hesitating and Randidly aimed a glare at them. “You’ll get in the way. I need to concentrate. Get inside and make sure Yggdrasil isn’t disturbed. And if you fail to keep him safe…”
Randidly let some of the Grim Chimera’s cruelty creep into his expression. Salazar went pale, but even Zauna took a half step backward and wouldn’t meet his eyes.
Snorting, Randidly turned back and looked up toward the sky. His mouth began to curve outward.
Show me how much you want to kill, Nether. And then I’ll show you how little your resolve means.
The specter of the Grim Chimera growled with pleasure as its influence unrolled itself into the surrounding area. Its two violent limbs reached up toward the sky and prepared to worship in the only way it knew how.
In the aftermath of the bombardment, Lady Iellaya scowled down at the casualty report given to her by Abiodun. It had not been a good day. So much so that even she felt the subtle tugs of wariness. “Why would the Nether even do this? It doesn’t make any fucking
On the one hand, Iellaya was rather pleased that their position had once more been under heavy fire from the Nether. The more evidence she could provide to parties back in the Nexus that Lord Miln was a fool, the better. But her camp being the one on the receiving end of the bombardment set her plans back quite a bit.
It was hard to earn merits when her forces were limping toward the fight. Or when half of her forces were working on repairing the grounds rather than recuperating after missions into the Great Rift.
Especially because that idiot Commander Terith actually succeeded in giving the Nether Gatekeeper a mortal wound.
Iellaya gritted her teeth.
Lord Miln doesn’t need any excuse for the losses today; to the Tier 3 citizens, what do the lives of non-citizens matter compared to the damage done to a Nether Gatekeeper.
Yet even that was only a portion of her frustration because Lady Iellaya was also pulling her feathers out as she tried to understand what the Nether had been thinking by launching such a disastrous attack. A bombardment like this hadn’t happened for almost a thousand years!
And for good reason. After the grand formation to create stars was activated, all of that ambient Nether this bombardment had injected into the area would be sucked away and fed into the soldiers across the battlefront. It probably wouldn’t be much when it was divvied up among so many people, but if it pushed everyone up about one-tenth of a star without any danger involved, it would certainly be a boon to their forces.
Some veterans might need to be retired as they reached near to five stars, but that was barely a factor. A vast majority of the individuals on the battlefield were fresh; that was just the hard truth about how deadly the Great Rift was. Most of the people receiving this benefit weren’t even one star. And reaching that first star would boost the soldier’s survivability by as much as 10% for the rest of their career as a soldier. This attack could be considered a long term boon for Aether.
Lady Iellaya flexed her hand and the piece of parchment was reduced to dust.
Thirty-nine suffered serious wounds, with another hundred wounded… almost one-tenth of my total number, reduced to nothing in a single day…!
While Iellaya continued to grit her teeth and make calculations regarding what she could do to keep the group ready for an opportunity to prove her worth on the frontline, Abiodun slowly lifted his head to look at her. His gaze was solemn, but it easily drew her gaze as the light in his eyes faded independently of each other.
Iellaya spared him a glance. They were alone in her tent, so the fact that he was meeting her gaze without saying anything meant that something was bothering him. Something that Iellaya wasn’t currently addressing. “Speak.”
Abiodun hummed in his thoughtful way as a show of respect before he began. “Mmmm… it is about that variant image. The Ghosthound.”
A sharp spike of annoyance slipped through her ribs and prodded at Iellaya’s heart.
After all the fucking work I did to free him… all for nothing.
“So he died.”
“To the contrary, he continues to live with remarkable zeal. Quite aggressively so.” Abiodun shook his head slowly. “No, I bring it up because he significantly contributed to the defense of the base. It is only due to his image weakening the bombardment that casualties among the images are so light.”
Pressing her lips into a line, Iellaya considered Abiodun. She wished she still had the piece of parchment to wave in his face. “This can be considered light? We barely have fifty images. More than half of them are now seriously wounded. It is difficult to be thankful for such an accomplishment.”
Abiodun lowered his head without saying anything. If anything, it only served to aggravate Iellaya further. She huffed out a breath and forced herself to calm down. It was with half-open eyes that she considered Abiodun’s statement. He was correct, of course, and she was letting her emotions get the better of her. When what she really needed to do was follow the slow and methodical lines of Abiodun’s thoughts. What was she missing?
No, he hadn’t brought it up because he thought it was an accomplishment that the Ghosthound should be rewarded for, Iellaya decided. Then her eyes brightened in realization.
He brought it up so I would be aware of the image’s growth. So his image continues to rapidly grow, eh? Then the likelihood of him being a Ritualist is even higher. But there is still the problem of liberating his body from Lord Miln…
…which brings us right back to the problem of unseating that ass as the Supreme Commander of our forces…
“Can you get any information from the subordinates we provided him? About how much he has truly grown?” Iellaya tapped her chin. Before she put any more actual resources behind this, it was better to understand what she was gambling on with the Ghosthound. After all, Lord Miln had already stonewalled her. To push it further meant working around him.
Of course, half of the reason that I want to free him is just to wipe the smug look off Lord Miln’s face.
Abiodun hesitated. Iellaya’s expression twisted into a scowl. “You cannot?”
“…it is not that I cannot, it is that they will be forever broken by the collection of the information,” Abiodun said slowly. “There are recourses, but they would reveal our hand. If I might suggest an alternative…?”
Lady Iellaya rolled her eyes. This time she could see his idea. “When you pretend like I don’t know every flow of your thoughts, I’m almost insulted, my Abiodun. Yes, I don’t have any work for Zagnal. Perhaps it is time for him to reunite with the Ghosthound. He can serve as a partner. And now if you will excuse me…”
Iellaya stood. The obsidian feathers along her back and arms flexed. “I must go visit Commander Terith. He owes me a favor.”